Open Doors shelter to reopen Nov. 7

Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:21 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - As the weather continues to cool, many of Harrisonburg’s homeless still have no place to stay at night but that will change in about a month. Open Doors low barrier shelter announced on Monday that it will reopen on Nov. 7 at Dayton United Methodist Church.

The shelter will rotate between churches this winter and announced the schedule for the first two months of its thermal shelter season on Monday. For the city’s homeless, the struggle of finding a safe place to stay at night will continue until then.

“All homeless people aren’t bad. Some of us will make it and some of us won’t but everybody deserves that chance including a felon,” said Sandra Mongold, a former Open Doors guest and founder of the Protectors of the Homeless Committee.

Back in August, Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed hosted a meeting of community stakeholders and urged the city’s faith community to help house the homeless until Open Doors could reopen. Over a month later that still has not happened.

“Right now it’s cold and the last four days were pretty rough with the wind and the rain. Those who had tents probably don’t have anything left. We’re just gonna huddle together like we did at Red Front,” said Mongold.

Open Doors has locations set up for nearly its entire thermal season as it prepares to reopen. It is also working on planning out meal services and transportation. Unfortunately, because it has no permanent location, it will have to reduce its capacity to 40 guests.

“In November and December, we will be operating out of three hosts. We have a significant player that will be hosting us for four weeks during the first two months of the season and then we have several churches about a handful or more for the second half,” said Nate Riddle, Open Doors Director of Operations.

Riddle said that Open Doors would prefer to be open already but that is simply not feasible.

“We are operationally bound and we have not been able to open up as quickly as we like but we are happy to be opening up in November and we are looking forward to a permanent location, but until then, we are continuing our outreach into the community,” he said.

While it is unable to open this month Open Doors has been working to provide help to those living on the streets.

“We have gone out and partnered with faith communities to provide warmth via scarves, jackets, hats, and gloves. It’s our goal to keep them as warm as possible until we are able to open,” said Riddle.

Mongold has become a leader and advocate for Harrisonburg’s homeless population. She hopes the city and other organizations will work together to provide more resources for the homeless.

“As I explained to the mayor, drugs are an issue. We need a place to go through the day to teach us some skills, have a counselor on duty and maybe the counselor can get somebody on SNAP,” she said.

Mongold said that she is disappointed that no one has stepped up to fill the void left in Open Doors’ absence.

“My main goal is to get these people off the streets. There are elderly and disabled who can’t be out in the elements every day all day. What I want to know is where is the heart of this city? Where has it gone? I’ve never been so disappointed in the people of this city in my life and I’ve lived here my entire life,” she said.

Mongold said she estimates there are between 50 and 60 homeless people in Harrisonburg.

The Harrisonburg Salvation Army did reopen its shelter last month and that has helped ease some of the burdens but because it is a high-barrier shelter many of the city’s homeless are unable to stay there.